No Turkish delight for EU

No other European Union candidacy has divided politicians and public opinion as much as Turkey’s – probably because no one took it for granted. At the same time, no other applicant has acted as aggressively inside the waiting room. Whether because of strong national confidence or because of overt American and British backing, Ankara even went as far as to threaten the EU with financial and commercial sanctions. More arrogantly, Ankara has argued that the future of Europe, and its evolution into a global power, will depend on whether it will join the 25-member bloc, bringing its undeniable historical, political and economic weight. Repeated surveys indicate that European public opinion remains largely skeptical toward Turkey’s EU ambitions. One could blame popular apprehension on prejudice and fear of the «other»; alternatively, many are influenced by purely economic criteria contrary to those employed by Turkey’s cheerleaders, who have their eyes on a new if still developing market. The diffuse web of Turkey-skeptics includes people with radically diverse readings of the Turkish question. Some believe that the religious divide is insurmountable. More secular (or ostensibly secular) critics hold that the main roadblock is Ankara’s poor human and minority rights record. In any case, political and ideological visions of Europe’s future diverge. This gap has opened wider after the Union’s failure to digest the large chunks of central and eastern Europe it has already swallowed. Greek politicians and ordinary people alike are hoping that the carrot of EU membership will pull Turkey toward democratic reform and improve bilateral ties with Greece and Cyprus. It’s hard to deny that Ankara has made efforts to meet EU demands. However, it’s equally hard to deny that it must first tread a long and tough road.